In excess of 700 respondents completed the first-ever 2013 Finance and Accounting survey, which was aimed at top decision-makers. The survey was sponsored by Cassel&Company, a division of ADvTECH Resourcing, and the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA).

Natasha Bell, General Manager at Cassel&Company, says that the most surprising finding is that qualifications and experience level are salary-determining factors rather than benchmarking against market-related salaries. “It seems,” she says, “that the size and type of an organisation, the industry in which it operates, and the functions being performed, determine salaries.”

The top three sectors of interest to financial and accounting professionals are financial services and banking, manufacturing and trades, and professional services. The financial services industry, however, is showing a marked interest in employing more financial and business analysts.

Bell says that the survey was structured to look not only at salaries but at complete benefit packages, and also to examine why people leave companies. Higher-income brackets generally look at the benefits, while lower brackets first consider the take-home salary portion.The most sought-after benefits include a pension or provident fund, annual leave in excess of 18 days, group life and disability cover, a thirteenth cheque, and flexible working hours. It does however seem that flexible working hours have already become the norm and cannot anymore be considered a differentiating factor.

As far as actual remuneration goes, it is clear from the findings that audit managers earn less than internal auditors, while bookkeeper’s salaries haven’t been adjusted for the past five years – despite the fact that junior specialists like cashbook and creditors’ clerks have started earning the same and sometimes more than bookkeepers.

The upper salary bracket, from R651 000 upwards is dominated by males whereas the bracket of R200 000 – R550 000 is dominated by females.  This correlates to the research recently conducted by government.The majority of 2012 salary increases were between five percent and eight percent, with only 11.7 percent of salary increases at nine to 10 percent. Also, 85 percent of performance bonuses were based on combined company and individual performance, and 15 percent on individual performance only.

Survey findings show that 71 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds have changed employers to advance their career growth, while 100 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds have moved on for a higher salary. It seems that more men move for career growth while more women move for higher pay. These two factors are the primary reasons for all respondents leaving employers. Despite this, only 31 percent of respondents acknowledged having an agreed-upon career path within their current organisation.

Chantelle Booysen, Marketing Manager at ADvTECH Resourcing, summarised the findings by saying that salaries are a touchy subject because of the chasm between the expectations of potential employees and what companies can actually afford. This is despite graduate professionals’ levels of experience and skills. She says that employers must come to understand what could make them an employer of choice.

She says that becoming an employer of choice entails, among other aspects, paying for and encouraging financial professionals to belong to recognised industry bodies, such as SAIPA, thus availing them of the latest communiques and trends.

“Employers should not try to cut costs when negotiating remuneration packages with their accounting professionals,” says Cindy Dibete, SAIPA board member. “Professional accountants have a vital role to play in advising and supporting business, and in imparting the financial and accounting knowledge essential to business success.”

“This being said, it is clear that financial and accounting professionals make employment decisions based on the softer side of remuneration packages,” concludes Dibete. “Based on these survey results, employers will do well to relook how they structure remuneration packages in order to attract top talent. It’s not about the highest take-home pay anymore, but about positioning yourself as an employer of choice by taking into account the various factors that are important to potential employees.”